Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The first Felsham Parish Meeting, 1894

In the Record Office in Bury St Edmunds you can read the Minutes Book of the Felsham Parish Council (Ref: EG718.20/9)

It begins:
"The first Parish Meeting under the Local Government Act of 1894 was held in the schoolroom of this Parish of Felsham on December 4th 1894 at 7.30 o’clock for the purpose of
  1. Electing a chairman of the meeting
  2. Electing seven parish councillors

On the proposition of Mr Samuel Scott, which was seconded by Mr Harry Kinsey, the Rev E Gough, Rector was unanimously elected chairman.  Mr L Sterne read the notice convening the meeting, which had been published and signed by the Overseers (Messrs S Scott and Fred. Addison) on Nov 23rd 1894.

At 7.40 o’clock the chairman asked for nomination of Parish Councillors.  Mr Oscar Mays handed in four, Mr S Scott two, Mr Fred. Scott one, and Mr L Sterne one.  The chairman then dealt with the nomination papers in accordance with instructions issued by the Local Government Board.

After the lapse of fifteen minutes the person nominated with their proposers and seconders were read out to the meeting as follows:

Aves, Edward
Lower Green
Ag Lab
Hubbard, James

Kinsey, Harry

Mays, Oscar
Opposite the Church
Ag Lab
Moore, William
Maiden Hall
Ag Lab
Phillips, George
Opposite the Church
Scott, Fred.

Scott, Samuel


A show of hands was then taken by the Chairman with the following result. [See column 4 above]

The chairman declared the six receiving votes elected and Brewer Arthur Rupert, Felsham, Carpenter … was nominated by Harry Kinsey and seconded by Robert Farrow.  On a show of hands for Brewer he received 10 votes.

Mr Edward Aves here demanded a Poll…"

The most interesting feature of this first parish meeting in Felsham is the background of the newly elected councillors.  With the exception of Oscar Mays, who was an agricultural labourer, the new councillors were farmers and tradespeople who almost certainly voted nationally for the Conservative Party.  The Scott brothers and Harry Kinsey were leaders of a group that disrupted the Liberal Party meeting on Upper Green in 1885.

By 1894 most men over 21 had achieved the right to vote and it is clear from  these Minutes that some of the newly franchised agricultural labourers were keen to get a foothold on the new parish council.  The fact that two labourers received no votes at all is an indication of the strength of the farming faction in Felsham.  This was still an era of deference and many farm workers would not want to vote contrary to the wishes of their employers particularly when their jobs and homes could be at stake.

The interesting exception is Oscar Mays, agricultural labourer, who received the most votes and was clearly a very popular and respected figure in the village.  We can only speculate on why he was the exception.  Perhaps, he had pretensions to join the farming fraternity himself?  

By 1901, Oscar Mays was described as a "small-holder" in the Census Returns for that year. Then in 1919 he is described, in one of the commercial directories, as a "small-holder and carrier" at Boundary Farm.  

By 1925, he achieves the appellation of "farmer" and eventually becomes a pillar of the local establishment by assuming the office of Chairman of the Parish Council in 1931.  After many decades of service to the community he retires soon after, so that by 1934 he is described as an "old age pensioner"!